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The Best of 2021, According to the Ones to Watch Staff

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2021 has been well… 2021. Pop-punk took the world by storm (again), digital avatars of apathetic primates left some questioning if a glossy JPEG is a better investment than becoming a homeowner, and the world attempted to return to some semblance of normalcy.  And yet, throughout it all, music prevailed.  

While we already chronicled the albums that soundtracked this very weird year, we could not enter 2022 in good conscience without checking in with our staff. This is the best of 2021, according to Ones to Watch.

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Maxamillion Polo

Describe Your 2021 with one song: Fred Again.., The Blessed Madonna -  "Marea (We've Lost Dancing)"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: binki

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: PinkPantheress. The future belongs to her.

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021: Carly Rae Jepsen, this year and every year.

Favorite Music Video of 2021: DPR LIVE -  "Yellow Cab"

Favorite Song of 2021: Tyler, the Creator, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Ty Dolla $ign -  "Wusyaname"

Favorite Album of 2021: Dijon - Absolutely

Favorite Artist of 2021: glaive. Haven't seen a live show like that in quite some time. Well, roughly two years to be precise.  

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget: Returning to the real world. After nearly two years spent mostly inside, every little happenstance or chance series of encounters has carried with it a newfound sense of wonder. Moments that would have been seemingly mundane in a past life feel refreshingly novel, as if I'm experiencing every little thing the world has to offer me for the first time, all over again.  

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: I hope web3, and all its aspirations for decentralization, fostering digital communities, and empowering creatives, doesn't become just another disappointing facet of insatiable, all-consuming capitalism.  

Any New Year's Resolutions?: Read outside more. Take trips with friends. Learn how to make a pretzel at home because both the Wetzel's Pretzels and Auntie Anne's by my house closed down.  

Top Artist to Watch in 2022:  Keep your eyes on tsubi club and BoyWithUke.  

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Paige MacDonald

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  Oliver Tree -  "Life Goes On"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: Ricky Himself

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: Olivia Rodrigo

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021: Conan Gray 4ever

Favorite Music Video of 2021:  Tate McRae -   "feel like shit"


Favorite Song of 2021:  Ricky Himself feat. Mark Hoppus -  "Parasocial"

Favorite Album of 2021:  Jelani Aryeh - I've Got Some Living To Do

Favorite Artist of 2021: Gracie Abrams

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget: My best friend, Sienna getting engaged AND telling me she's pregnant with a baby girl

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: Changing my answer because I just tried a VR headset for the first time this past weekend and it was awesome.. but still unclear on the metaverse - will circle back

Any New Year's Resolutions?: More time off my computer / phone & order less postmates

Top Artist to Watch in 2022: flor (new album is IT... you heard it here first)  

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Ali Wu

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers -  "Nothing New"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: Slow Pulp

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: binki

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021:  Phoebe Bridgers

Favorite Music Video of 2021:  Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow -  "Industry Baby"


Favorite Song of 2021:  Laufey -  "Magnolia"

Favorite Album of 2021:  Faye Webster - I Know I'm Funny haha

Favorite Artist of 2021:  Laufey  

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget:  Matt Healy opening for Phoebe Bridgers

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?:  Fears: Mark Zuckerberg's boobs

Any New Year's Resolutions?:  Listen to more than just one song on repeat?  

Top Artist to Watch in 2022:  carwash is one of my fav recent discoveries this year. I can't wait to hear what they put out next year.

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David O'Connor  

Describe Your 2021 with one song: Terry Presume -  "ZaZa and Some Runtz." Hard to argue with analytics on this one, an organ backed strut song to keep me prepped for the  ultra quarantine imminencewas my most played song.

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: Appleby. His persistence and artistry maturates into such sonic beauty it makes me emo anytime it plays, give it a listen and you'll feel the same.

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: Audrey Nuna. More obvious ones undoubtedly, but Audrey used the pandemic period to grow her brand in a way that was truly impressive: huge fashion placements, commercials and syncs, followed by festive billings and sold out shows, yet her unique style never wained.

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021: Petey.  Arriving late in the year, this artist seemed to bottle up the angst of the past years and created a therapeutic hopscotch of songs that could deliver you to the other side where hope awaited. The chorus sing along with strangers at his first show in LA turned it into cathartic group therapy, and we were all better for it.

Favorite Music Video of 2021: Sad Night Dynamite, IDK - "Psychedelic Views."  If you've been on this trip then this surreal POV dream within a dream melange should be enough for honest flashback recall. Enjoy.


Favorite Song of 2021: C. Tangana, Nià±o de Elche, La Hàºngara -  "TຠMe Dejaste De Querer." A celebratory song I loved playing in contrasts (among the rolling hills of upstate New York especially), no setting wasn't better for it being played loudly. If the tired tropes of reggaeton could mature into this post-flamenco gem about the arbitrage of love & sex, we'll be so much the better for it.

Favorite Album of 2021: Terry Presume - What Box?.  Technically an EP, this work like all great collections of songs, amplified all I was feeling and provided on demand delirium what're the mood. Proper propulsion for your soul at a time when its is always being tested, Terry is the medicine.

Favorite Artist of 2021: Cleopatrick. Clearly I'm a sucker for starting a two piece rock band with your best friend, thriving outside the industry in a small town, and seeking witty revenge on your high school frenemies through excellent, turbulent "get me out of this place" songwriting.

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget: Going back to shows... For two thirds of my life concerts were what I did for fun, for a living, for excess, for sanctity. I won't say I didn't enjoy the fomo rest, but like restoring a lost limb I felt whole again when they returned.

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: That it keeps the gimmicky kids outta the real clubs.

Any New Year's Resolutions?: To find someone to help me playlist on Apple Music again.

Top Artist to Watch in 2022: The Marà­as. Detouring into a robust and diverse sound that has created a platform for Marà­a Zardoya to be a pop phenom, buoyed by a huge record in Cinema, this group has all the trimming to be a celebratory cause in 2022.

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Malcolm Gray

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  Chumbawamba - "Tubthumping"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021:  SG Ali

Best Breakout Artist of 2021:  PinkPantheress

Favorite Music Video of 2021:  Maxo Kream, Tyler, the Creator - BIG PERSONA  


Favorite Song of 2021:  Dave, Stormzy - "Clash" or Little Simz - "Woman"

Favorite Album of 2021: Three-way tie between Tyler, the Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost  and Charlotte Day Wilson - Alpha and Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams

Favorite Artist of 2021:  Tyler, the Creator

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget:  The Free Larry Hoover Concert featuring Kanye West and Drake in LA

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?:  Hoping I hit a lick on an NFT and can retire early

Any New Year's Resolutions?:  SHARE. MORE. MUSIC.

Top Artist to Watch in 2022:  Enny

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Ally Rincón

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  Lauren Hibberd, The Regrettes, Lydia Night - "How Am I Still Alive?." in 2021, I had COVID, two surgeries, and three skateboarding accidents. I’m glad I’m ok, but wow..that was rough.

Most Underrated Artist of 2021:  Super American. "How Big Is Your Brain?" got me through lockdown, and their 2021 album SUP is absolutely impeccable.

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: Bella Poarch. I’ll admit I was quick to judge her skills before even listening to her sing because of her TikTok fame, but I’m happy I gave her music a chance because she oozes talent and artistic vision.

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021:  Pom Pom Squad and Divino Nià±o.

Favorite Music Video of 2021:  Bella Poarch - “Build a Bitch.” The concept is simple, and the song may be short, but it’s still an extremely engaging video with an empowering storyline.


Favorite Song of 2021:  Boy Willows - "Fila and Friends." The whole BANGS EP is stellar, but I found myself listening to this track repeatedly when I’d go on long walks or go skating at night. It’s definitely made an impact on me.

Favorite Album of 2021:  Between You & Me - Armageddon. The band went through so much to make this record, but it was absolutely worth the wait!

Favorite Artist of 2021:  Sarah Cicero. I had a feeling she was going to be my favorite artist of the year when she released her single "Indifferent" back in January.

One moment of 2021 You’ll Never Forget:  Playing my first show ever! It felt like such a long time coming.

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: I hope people can become more logical and empathetic online. I fear that my personal data will continue to be sold to other companies.

Any New Year’s Resolutions?: Put out a record, play more shows, and MAYBE go on tour.

Top Artist to Watch in 2022: Hard to say because it changes every day, but GLOM is definitely one band I’m really excited to see thrive in 2022.

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Carter Fife

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  645AR -  "Crash Out"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: HVN

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: 454

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021: Tinashe

Favorite Music Video of 2021:  Cochise, $NOT -  "Tell Em"


Favorite Song of 2021:  The Marà­as -  "All I Really Want Is You"

Favorite Album of 2021:  IDK - USEE4YOURSELF

Favorite Artist of 2021: kojima+

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget: Getting turned away from Lock & Key for wearing shorts.

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: I hope to see everyone there!  

Any New Year's Resolutions?: Celebrate more.

Top Artist to Watch in 2022: SoGone SoFlexy

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Alec Wing

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  Bo Burnham -  "That Funny Feeling"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: Athletic Progression

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: Fred Again..

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021: Little Simz

Favorite Music Video of 2021: Courtney Barnett - "Before You Gotta Go"


Favorite Song of 2021:  Baby Keem, Kendrick Lamar -  "family ties"

Favorite Album of 2021:  Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Favorite Artist of 2021: St. Vincent

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget: Kelsy Karter live in Glasgow, Scotland.

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: Brunch with Zucc in the Uncanny Valley.

Any New Year's Resolutions?: I'd like to climb a really tall mountain on another continent.

Top Artist to Watch in 2022: Wet Leg

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Danté Ammon

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  A$AP Rocky -  "Changes"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: Grimm lynn  

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: Destin Conrad

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021: Answer is always gonna be  Doja Cat.

Favorite Music Video of 2021:  Baby Keem, Kendrick Lamar -  "family ties"  


Favorite Song of 2021:  Shy High - "Independent Films"

Favorite Album of 2021: IDK- USEE4YOURSELF (Deluxe)  

Favorite Artist of 2021: Baby Keem

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget: Ye's performance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium without a doubt.

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: I mean the movie Her  was really funny in theory, but...

Any New Year's Resolutions?: I need to stop gatekeeping country music from my playlists.

Top Artist to Watch in 2022: Teezo Touchdown

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Dolly Ave

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  Dr. Dog -  "Where'd All The Time Go"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: Yebba  

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: Rina Sawayama

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021:  Eddie Benjamin  

Favorite Music Video of 2021: SZA - "Good Days"


Favorite Song of 2021:  Noah Cyrus - "The End of Everything"

Favorite Album of 2021:  Hayley Williams - Flowers for Vases

Favorite Artist of 2021: Aurora

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget: Enjoying live music and festivals again. Attending Lolla with the Ones to the Watch crew was a wonderful experience ♥️

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: Is NFT staying?

Any New Year's Resolutions?: Only good health and more memories  

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Deanie Chen

Describe Your 2021 with one song:  The War on Drugs -  "I Don’t Wanna Wait"

Most Underrated Artist of 2021: Deb Never

Best Breakout Artist of 2021: Mammoth WVH (My favorite debut album of the year)

Biggest Artist Crush of 2021: beadbadoobee

Favorite Music Video of 2021:  MAX, ali gatie - "Butterflies" (Biased because i helped work on this but its so beautiful, directed by the best Andy DeLuca and Sarah Eiseman)


Favorite Song of 2021: The Marà­as - Hush (Still Woozy Remix) OR Masego - "Yamz"

Favorite Album of 2021:  Bo Burnham - Inside

Favorite Artist of 2021: Silk Sonic

One moment of 2021 You'll Never Forget: Going on a short East Coast tour with MAX (and Lauren Sanderson opening) was absolutely surreal. Live music is so special.  

Hopes and/or fears for entering the metaverse?: i hope paramore 6 is everything we’re hoping it is and more.

Any New Year's Resolutions?: Photograph more festivals in 2022!

Top Artist to Watch in 2022: Allison Ponthier

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